3rd May 2017, London, UK – On April 28th two Islamic schools in the Township of Tharkayta, an eastern suburb of Yangon where approximately 50,000 Muslims live, were sealed off and closed by a group of Buddhist Ultra-Nationalists. The group was upset that the schools were being used to host prayers, which they claimed were in defiance of restrictions previously imposed by authorities against the schools. Witnesses told BHRN that the mob was as large as 150 ultra-nationalists, and The Irrawaddy reported a brawl taking place at the scene. The incident took place on a Friday, which is a holy day for prayer for Muslims. The Irrawaddy also said their reporter on the scene was threatened by the nationalists when he approached them for comment, then forced to leave the scene. The schools are located on Anawmar 11 and 12 streets.
“Authorities have failed to protect the country’s minority Muslim population and have consistently complied with the demands of Buddhist-nationalist extremist groups. The actions of the extremist groups have clearly undermined the rule of law and are part of an increasing trend of groups targeting Muslims. Due to the failure of the authorities to take action against Buddhist extremists, Muslims in Burma are vulnerable to vigilante attacks, civilian level persecution and denial of access to fundamental human rights. Worse still is that the failure by the authorities to take any action against the extremist groups will encourage them to commit further attacks,” said Executive Director Kyaw Win of BHRN.
The scene apparently lasted for hours, where a mob gathered at the schools protesting their use for Friday prayer. Police reportedly stood by as the protests occurred and finally allowed the protesters to chain the entrances to the schools. As of now there is no indication by authorities when the schools will be allowed to reopen.